DCSD recognizes top academically performing students

Each year, high schools throughout the country choose at least two seniors that exemplify dedication, determination, discipline, and excellence.

These students, through rigorous study and precise performance, rise to the top of their graduating class over the course of their four years at school, eventually earning the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian.

Both distinctions are some of the highest honors awarded by DeKalb County School District (DCSD), which recognizes valedictorians and salutatorians each year at an official ceremony, which took place this year at the Robert R. Freeman Administration & Instruction Complex on May 9, 2019. Twenty-eight valedictorians and twenty-six salutatorians were named for the DCSD Class of 2019.

Valedictorians are the highest ranking seniors from each graduating class as determined by grade-point average. The name is derived from the Latin phrase, “vale dicere” or “to say farewell.” This is rooted in the valedictorian’s role as the final speaker of each year’s graduation ceremony.

Salutatorians are the second-highest ranking senior from each graduating class and are also determined by grade-point average. The name is derived from the term “salutatory,” and applied because salutatorians often deliver the welcoming address at graduation ceremonies.

In the event of a tie, such as the cases at Lithonia High School and Southwest DeKalb High School this year, a co-valedictorian or co-salutatorian pair is named.

A Night to Remember

Salutatorian stands with parentsThe May 9 event featured words of inspiration from district officials and students, as well as a surprise gift from the district’s Information Technology department in the form of Acer Chromebooks. The special delivery was made possible through a partnership between DCSD, Acer, and Virtucom.

Superintendent/CEO Dr. R. Stephen Green listed the collective accomplishments of valedictorians and salutatorians, which include being awarded the National Merit Scholarship; Zell Miller Scholarship; Gates Millennium Scholarship; Bryan Cameron Impact Scholarship; Coca-Cola Scholarship; Posse Foundation Scholarship; Angie Merit Scholarship; Dell Scholarship; Lithonia Chamber of Commerce Scholarship, Colorado University Boulder Chancellor Achievement Scholarship.

According to Dr. Green, the Valedictorians and Salutatorians also participated in, or were members of, National Honor Society, Beta Club; JROTC; National Spanish Honor Society;

National German Honor Society; National English Honor Society; Heroes in Action Network; Atlanta Urban Debate League; VEX Robotics; and the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project.

Students also claimed the PAGE STAR Student award; the AP Scholar Award; the Yale Book Award; the Hank Johnson District Congressional Art Award; the US Army Scholastic Excellence Award; the Regeneron Science Talent Search Award; and the Certificate of Merit and more.

“This is your resume, and to the parents and families who are gathered here today, you should be proud. Poke your chest out,” Dr. Green said. “As you go on, remember, you will go on to great things and we expect great things of you, but you will not separate from us. You will be an extension of us wherever you go. Congratulations, job well done!”

Looking Toward the Future

With such high achievement, the vals and sals of 2019 will attend such higher education institutions as Albany State, Bard, Brandeis, Emory, George Mason, Georgia College, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Harvard, Howard, Lafayette College, Loyola Maryland, Mercer, Michigan State, Middle Georgia, North Carolina A&T, Oglethorpe, George Washington, Trinity College, Westpoint, University of Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia, Southern California, West Georgia, Warren Wilson, and Wesleyan.

Lakeside High School valedictorian Zoe Weiss had the distinct honor of providing the class inspiration to students at the DCSD ceremony on May 9. A self-proclaimed “science nerd,” Weiss stated the entire Class of 2019 Val and Sal list were also science nerds based on its ability to be future-minded to better the present.

“Thank you to the countless educators at DeKalb County School District—thank you for 13 years of unparalleled education and academic opportunities to thrive, which no one would be here without,” Weiss said. “Kindergarten to senior year is 13 years. We attend school 180 days per year; that’s 2,340 days of school. School goes from approximately 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., so seven hours a day for 2,340 days means we spend 16,380 hours in school. Why? And what did the people in this room—the vals and sals of DeKalb County—do so right during this 16,380 hours do so right? The short answer is, a lot.”

Weiss noted that it is important that, collectively, the Class of 2019’s valedictorians and salutatorians conquered many obstacles from many sets of circumstances. She claimed the diversity of DCSD is unfathomable in its scope and depth—and that’s what makes it uniquely strong.

valedictorian and salutatorian stand with DCSD leaders“What we did right is spend the 16,380 hours transforming the diversity around us into inclusion,” Weiss said. “We have fostered an inclusive community that creates world-class students with diverse backgrounds who realizes that the hardest challenges must be addressed by multi-disciplinary teams. We celebrate the uniqueness in thought, backgrounds, perspectives, and intellectual pursuits. We crave the challenge of tackling the unforeseen. We’re recognized for being innovative and bold. Whether we know it or not, the hard work we put into our assignments and extracurriculars makes a difference in our communities, the state, the nation, and the world.”

DeKalb County Board of Education member Vickie Turner also provided words of wisdom to attendees. Turner reminded students to stay vigilant in their pursuit of knowledge, even when being recognized for their dedication, hard work, and determination. She also advised that students pursue passion and purpose rather than a paycheck.

“Learning is lifelong,” Turner said. “Although you have almost completed this phase, you have so much more to grab and explore. Pride yourself on being a lifelong learner. Learning is a journey, not a destination. When you stop learning, you do not have much to look forward to in life. Never stop learning. Learning is a social act. Go beyond your wildest dreams while exploring the unknown and charting your own path. We expect great contributions from you and know you will not let us down. We are so proud of you.”

The evening ended with refreshments and photo opportunities between vals, sals, family, and attending DCSD staff.

High School Class Rank Student Future School
Arabia Mountain Magnet Valedictorian Janae Baker North Carolina A&T State University
Resident Valedictorian Arantza Pena Popo University of Southern California
Magnet Salutatorian Daija Jackson North Carolina A&T State University
Resident Salutatorian Kamaya Walker North Carolina A&T State University
Cedar Grove Valedictorian Chloe Dixon Mercer University
Salutatorian Audrey Choutpouen Nsangou George Mason University
Chamblee Charter Magnet Valedictorian Sherwin Shirazi University of Georgia
Resident Valedictorian Eshaan Agrawal University of Georgia
Magnet Salutatorian Lee-San Sun Georgia Institute of Technology
Resident Salutatorian Debajyoti Das Georgia State University
Clarkston Valedictorian Evanne’ J Casimir Georgia State University
Salutatorian Paw Thaw Thaw Georgia State University
Columbia Magnet Valedictorian Brandy Jackson University of Kentucky
Resident Valedictorian Christina Lewis Georgia College
Magnet Salutatorian Keonna Timmons Georgia Institute of Technology
Resident Salutatorian Thierno Doumbouya Georgia State University
Cross Keys Valedictorian Deanna Lin Georgia Institute of Technology
Salutatorian Amanda Perdomo Middle Georgia State University
DeKalb Early College Academy Valedictorian Kelsey Brew Georgia Institute of Technology
Salutatorian Aaron Patterson Howard University
DeKalb School of the Arts Valedictorian Mariya Kurbatova Bard College
Salutatorian Ella Biehn Wesleyan University
Druid Hills Valedictorian Sabina Iqbal Emory University
Salutatorian Haris Miller Georgia Institute of Technology
Dunwoody Valedictorian Madeline Tapp Georgia Institute of Technology
Salutatorian Caroline Shewmaker Georgia Institute of Technology
Martin L. King Jr. Valedictorian Jasmine White University of Georgia
Salutatorian Mikaili Williams Oglethorpe University
Lakeside Valedictorian Zoe Weiss Harvard University
Salutatorian Shani Edmond Georgia Institute of Technology
Lithonia Co-Valedictorian Alexandra Hamilton University of West Georgia
Co-Valedictorian Sara Nunez Georgia State University
Salutatorian Rebecca Zhang Georgia State University
Ronald E. McNair Valedictorian Taniya Scott Albany State University
Salutatorian Kathy Romero University of Georgia
Miller Grove Valedictorian Rashon Poole Michigan State University
Salutatorian Breonna Lenon Georgia Southern University
Redan Valedictorian Ar’Monii Price University of Virginia
Salutatorian Seinab Mohamed University of Georgia
Southwest DeKalb Magnet Valedictorian Gabrielle Huff University of Georgia
Resident Co-Valedictorian Jamia Craft University of Georgia
Resident Co-Valedictorian Nyanyoh Jokwi Georgia Southern University
Magnet Salutatorian Sarah Sileshi University of Georgia
Resident Salutatorian Darielicia Finley U.S. Military Academy at Westpoint
Stephenson Valedictorian Mychal Anderson University of Georgia
Salutatorian Rochelle Hall Georgia State University
Stone Mountain Valedictorian Bawi Par The George Washington University
Salutatorian Haileyesus Ayalew Loyola University Maryland
Tapestry Public Charter Valedictorian Xavier Butler Brandeis University
Salutatorian Miles Lamberson Warren Wilson College
Towers Valedictorian Deion Kelly Trinity College
Salutatorian B’leaka Martins Lafayette College
Tucker Valedictorian Usman Saeed Jamal Georgia Institute of Technology
Salutatorian Leah Whitmoyer University of Georgia